Whenever a new Frank Ocean track drops, the world puts down everything to stop and listen. The avant-garde R&B icon is one of the most recognizable names in music today, widely known for his critically acclaimed albums Channel Orange and Blonde. Despite massive amounts of success, Ocean has managed to keep a relatively low profile, returning to the spotlight only when he’s releasing new music before disappearing to work on his next project. “Dear April,” the first of two Frank Ocean singles released in 2020 so far, finds him quietly resurfacing in a time of contemplation and reflection.
Premiering in New York City at his PrEP+ club night event in October 2019, “Dear April” was originally heard as a club remix by electronic music duo Justice. In contrast, acoustic versions of both “Dear April” and the Spanish-sung “Cayendo” were released via streaming services April 3. In its current form,“Dear April” is an understated ballad more compelling than last year’s “DHL” and “In My Room,” providing nostalgic comfort in these uncertain times.
Though labeled as “acoustic,” “Dear April” is a surprisingly electronic affair — the track’s atmosphere is washed in a dreamy aura, with reverb guitars and sparse keys softly swirling around Ocean’s instantly familiar vocals. Reflecting, he details the changing nature of his life, lamenting how things will never be the same. “Like you took these strangers/ And our two strange lives/ And made us new,” he sings reminiscently. Lyrically, his tone remains optimistic as his voice wavers in and out of the forefront. He declares, “I believe no matter what it makes us do/ Take us through it/ And wake us back again,” full of hope as his vocals rise. Ocean’s delivery is keenly sensitive and stirring, bleeding through the abstract instrumental arrangement. This is Frank Ocean in the vein of “Ivy,” stripped down to his most heartfelt and captivating.
On “Dear April,” who Ocean is singing to is not made entirely clear; though he describes what could be an uncertain future with a lover, his lyrics perfectly double as a heartfelt message coinciding with the tumultuous events surrounding this month. In the song’s outro, Ocean asks, “Dear April, are you watching him dance?” His voice repeats before the song cuts off, the fleeting image of younger times hanging on the mind long after the track ends. The song is moving in its lyrics, blending Ocean’s relationship with a significant other and the world around them. In its subject matter, the track captures a beautiful balance between fear and hope.
Like the musical equivalent of Groundhog Day, Frank Ocean has returned once again. The world patiently listens, fully absorbing “Dear April” as the song marks a potential six more weeks of self-isolation. Luckily for fans, Ocean’s music is tailor-made for repeated listening, ideal songs to soundtrack deep personal reflection. “Dear April” is dreamy and soothing, reimagining a post-upheaval world with grace, accepting what came before while embracing what may never be the same.
Contact Vincent Tran at [email protected].